To the editor:
I have written this letter a hundred times, in a hundred ways and in the end always backed down. I have been fearful of retaliation because I have witnessed it too many times...neighbors being yelled at for expressing anything other than 100% pro ATV points of view, bullying in the form of threats of boycotting business, others being told to shut up and move if they don’t like ATVs in their backyard. Enough is enough. If I must be bullied in order to support my neighbors then I guess I’ll take it.
I moved here six years ago and fell in love with this area, not just the beauty of the natural surroundings, but the people. I would tell anyone and everyone what great communities Gorham and Berlin were. People really looked after each in meaningful ways. Neighbor took care of neighbor. We still do. I saw this most recently when schools were closed for Covid. Parents, teachers, bus drivers, community members stepping up and taking care of kids and families in new ways, getting things done quickly and efficiently. It was amazing and a proud moment for our communities.
What has not been a proud moment for us, has been how our neighbors and community members living along the Lancaster Rd. OHRV trail have been treated ... not only by the ATV community, but by our selectmen, and by the rest of us who just let it happen. I encourage you all to go to the trailhead, sit along it during a busy ATV day and endure just for an hour what our neighbors endure daily and endlessly. Please don’t say, “I live nearby, it’s not that bad” or “if they don’t like it, they should just move.” First of all, it is that bad, in fact it’s worse. I’ve sat in the backyard of one of the neighbors for a brief two hours … it’s unlivable. They are literally surrounded by noise, dust, intrusion and so much more from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. during ATV season. Second, homeowners bought their properties before ATVs were permitted on the trail. Abutters to trailhead were not even notified by our selectmen that the trail was being opened to ATVs. NOT EVEN NOTIFIED.
Imagine if a new business or enterprise was opened in your neighborhood, a business that directly impacted the quality of your life on a day to day basis and no one told you it was coming. Now imagine, going to your local selectmen and asking for help and being turned away. Imagine you offer compromise, alternatives and no one listened. In fact, not do only do they not listen, you start being harassed. You get harassed so much, you become fearful. I am fearful of speaking out and I don’t even live in this neighborhood. What has happened to our neighbors is heartbreaking and horrifying.
In 2017, our town developed a master plan. Town folks asked for improvements in walking paths and sidewalks, increased support for hiking, snowshoeing, biking ... all of this over ATV trail development, nearly a 3 to 1 margin. Money instead has been diverted to fight a lawsuit against our own neighbors and community members, $80,000 plus. I have seen a huge growth and presence in ATVs in our community, but not one single new walking path or any of the things our town members asked for.
I am not anti ATV … I never was. But I am becoming so.
I am anti bullying and harassment. It has to end.
I am pro community building. I support following our zoning and ordinances, which if followed would never have allowed for the trailhead on Lancaster Rd to be open to OHRVs, but would have allowed for alternative solutions. I am for taking care of our neighbors and preserving the quality of life for everyone, not just for those with the loudest voices.
Our greatest strength as a community is shown in how we take care of each other. We are letting our neighbors and ourselves down right now. A new trailhead off the B-G Rd is being developed. We need to restore the quality of life back to those along Lancaster Rd and shut the ATV access down along that trailhead.